Abstract Nanostructured bismuth ferrite (BiFeO 3) thin films were deposited on glass substrate by the sol–gel process. The as-fired film at 250 °C was found to be amorphous crystallizing to pure rhombohedral phase after annealing at 450 °C for 2 h in air. The XRD pattern shows that the sample is polycrystalline in nature. The average grain size of the film calculated from the XRD data was found to be 16 nm. The as-fired film show high transmittance that decreases after crystallization. The absorption edge of the films was found to be sharper and shifting towards the lower energy as the annealing temperature increases. The optical energy band gaps of the amorphous and crystalline films were found to be 2.63 and 2.31 eV, respectively. The refractive indices of the amorphous and crystalline films were 2.05 and 2.26, respectively.